CAMPAIGN to OPEN GILSLAND STATION

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Extract from the Commons Debate on Transport Infrastructure in Northumberland, 3rd September 2014

 

Guy Opperman (Hexham, Conservative)
It is crucial that Gilsland station is part of the local enterprise partnership’s strategic economic plan, and that the plan is tied into the work done by the LEP, the county council and the rural growth network, and to the support that is then given, so that we have the integration and development of the transport links that we all look forward to. .......

I am completely behind the Campaign to Open Gilsland Station. The work of Julie Gibbon, local councillors and so many local people too numerous to name needs to be applauded and supported.

Rory Stewart (Penrith and The Border, Conservative)
I am very fortunate to share Gilsland station with my hon. Friend; in fact, Gilsland stands on the boundary between our two constituencies. Does he agree that, along with the bottom-line analysis that Network Rail must undertake, some recognition needs to be given to the extraordinary energy, imagination and community spirit of the people in Gilsland, who have come up with such an extraordinary proposal?

Guy Opperman (Hexham, Conservative)
I totally agree. I have invited the Minister to come to Northumberland, and I hope she will confirm in her response that she will do so. We would take the Tyne Valley line and get off at Haltwhistle—sadly—to get in a car to drive to Gilsland station, so that she could see this wonderful project and what we propose: that where Hadrian’s wall and the Pennine way cross we will alleviate pressure on the road and bus network, and create significant local jobs and address significant rural poverty. A 1967 closure by Dr Beeching is surely capable of being reversed at relatively low cost, with the wider economic benefits palpably clear to everybody. A feasibility study by the Tyne Valley line rail users group concluded that the revenue from passengers using the station would cover operating costs and that there would be a benefit to the community of over £500,000. This area has suffered from poor transport connections for some considerable time......

I accept that ultimately direct funding and support will need to come from the two county councils and the two LEPs, which need to push this project into their strategic economic plan for 2016-17. The LEPs need to look to their local growth funds, which are clearly a potential source of the funds we need. We will also be speaking to our individual rural growth networks to assess how they can help. I ask the Minister not only to come and visit but to give the Department’s support, expertise and guidance so that local people can see that this important and much needed campaign is supported and they can be helped through the laughably described GRIP— governance for railway investment projects—process that determines all major railway rebuild programmes.

This really does matter. This is a genuinely rural and semi-rural area that requires the support of public transport, whether because of the difficulties with bus services, the problems that children are having getting to school, or the simple fact that there is a lack of infrastructure available.

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